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The London 2 Brighton Challenge 2015 – Anne’s Adventure

As I came down Brighton Racecourse I had a mixture of “yes…I’ve done it”, every step for my Mother, as I told her it would be.

I like to think of myself as a die hard WTW Volunteer. My annual pilgrimage to the Big Pink Tent in London to pull on my Orange T is one of the highlights of my year. I could never relinquish my 3 shifts from being amazed by my fellow Volunteers, inspired by all of the lovely Walkers, to losing my voice cheering at the Finish Line. Last year though I had a moment of “I really want to walk”, some may have said a moment of madness.

My previous charitable endeavours have entailed abseiling and zip lining. Turn up, jump off, job done, go home, no training required. Now I wanted a personal challenge and one to mark receiving good news in relation to my Mother’s health. Having read previous blogs London to Brighton seemed(!!) to fit the bill.

I have to confess I spent a few days periodically checking the challenge site, re-reading the blogs, my mouse poised ready to hit the enter button only to retreat from the brink. After another such moment, I gave myself a stern self talking to and then the deed was done! Holy moly “what have I done?” was my immediate thought, followed by “you’ve got this”. That was October.

Winter ensued and the New Year came as did the Training Plan in all its colourful, taunting glory. OK, deep breath. Can we do this? Yes we can! Point to note here good people, do not wait for your training plan any head start you give yourself you’ll be grateful for later.

So dear friends, “once more unto the breach” of training. Building it up and fitting it in around a full time job and other commitments. If you can swim and have other aerobic exercise time built in, great. My neighbour was also in training for the MoonWalk and I had a few sessions training with her. Mostly though, I was a woman on her own and on a mission. Clocking up miles and trying to improve my pace. My new walking boots were broken in and all was proceeding well.

Then March came along with a minor slip in the shower and ligament damage to my ankle. Training took a major backward step, along with my confidence.

Heading into April and a new pair of trail shoes with 6 weeks to go. The pressure from my original walking boots on my ankle niggled too much. Training was underway again. I was plagued by calf and shin issues, but I walked through the pain.

Top tip! Two days before the challenge I had a sports massage on my calves. Julia (Roberts) yes that is her name, said I had sticky muscles. Apparently it wasn’t a deep massage, but the pain!! I am not wondering what a deep massage feels like. The result was no calf or shin problems at all during the walk.

Fast forward to May and the major London training walk, it was great to meet fellow Walkers but the walk was a struggle and for the first time I had blisters. If I am honest, I was starting to doubt I could achieve what I had in mind.

Then the MoonWalk, well that was inspiring. I met up with my WTW friends and some previous London to Brighton Walkers. I received invaluable advice from them and WTW’s very own Sharon! My motivation and adrenalin were flowing again.

The following Friday off to Richmond I went. My sense of direction ever present, coming out of Richmond Station I took a wrong turn! The #65 bus driver kindly pointed me in the right direction. Later than intended I registered and took the bus to the hotel. As I arrived I was met by the sight of a group of ladies, fake tans and big hair prevailing! They wouldn’t have looked out of place on a certain well known TV show about Weddings. I feared a poor nights sleep and I wasn’t disappointed 1am, 2am! Sigh!

Taxi booked for 6:40am. Saturday morning an extra 10mins taping up my feet (zinc oxide tape it’s the way forward and a girls new best friend), Vaseline more than liberally applied, 6:50am and no taxi in sight. Cue a mild panic attack. Thankfully another Walker was just taking a taxi to the start and kindly allowed me to jump in (forever grateful).

Richmond Deer Park 7am. Greeting some familiar faces from London and the Cheerleading Squad. Seriously who has that much energy at that time of day?? Can I just take a moment here to apologise to the gentleman who had inadvertently forgotten to lock the port-a-loo door, whoops! A group photo and not long after we are called to the start. A brisk warm up singing along 10, 9, 8, we were off.

I quickly found my initial rhythm and was watching the pink MoonWalk cap of a fellow Walk the Walker who Volunteered at the MoonWalk and was a L2B 2014 finisher. She was faster than me and I was using her as my early pace maker. A gloriously sunny morning in Richmond heading out on to the tow path by the Thames. Walkers talking excitedly, dog walkers walking. Then a cyclist who going around a puddle came screaming towards me, quite literally!! I held my line and my nerve.

At around 5km I realised I was catching up my “pace maker”. I caught her and we fell into step and conversation. The kilometres passed quickly. We arrived at 12.5km before we knew it. A quick comfort stop and we were off again. We agreed to walk all the way to the end and cross the line together.

Striding forth through London suburbia, I think one of the memories that really does stick is of “Converse Man”. A young chap in skinny jeans, trendy Converse trainers and Converse bag slung across his shoulder with his L2B number secured to it. With walking shoes, technical top and camelback I felt over dressed for the occasion. I wonder if he finished? Onwards we strode to 25km, Kate and the Team to greet us. Here I have to mention the Volunteer with the fog horn who remembered me as her team lead at the 2014 MoonWalk. I spotted her in this year’s Nijmegen photos.

As each kilometre passed we indulged in a little song to mark another kilometre down. In fact singing featured quite a bit during the first 56km. As we approached 40km a surprise, the Walk the Walk Cheerleading Squad, fab.

56km, half way (yah us) striding up the road to Tulleys we heard the familiar “Oggy, oggy, oggy”. In the tent more Walk the Walk support from fellow Volunteers. A reasonable stop, filling up on pasta, salad, cake and tea. A change of socks with more tape, Vaseline and still no blisters. Head torches in situ, glow sticks attached and snapped we strode out into the night.

No scenery to admire just the bob of head torches, avoiding tree roots and low hanging branches. Onwards to the 67km stop, so busy were we yapping that I missed the kerb and crashed to the pavement. “Ouch” went my pride, thankfully nothing else was seriously hurt. Under 24 hours was looking achievable.

Onwards again to the 80km stop. Our pace had slowed but we made it. My Walking buddy was hitting the wall and we took our time. We were joined by my taxi lady and 2 other team members. Now I don’t do feet but I helped tape up feet, offered Vaseline and “oh don’t use own brand blister plasters only Compeed will do”. They left and we finally got ourselves up and off.

The next 7km were the toughest for my buddy. The sun was coming up and the pace had slowed. I would have struggled to get as far as I had without her and it was my job to make sure she got to the next stop. Part carrying, part shouting to keep her going, we finally made it to 87km.

I was very concerned at this point wondering how we would carry on. We took our time and rested. We filled up on cups of tea and snacks. Next was “THE HILL”…. It was quickly evident our paces were significantly different. We agreed to join forces again at 95km and with that I pushed onwards and upwards.

Holy moly! I understand why the D in Ditchling is substituted for a B! The view going up though was stunning. As I went over the top and around the flat I looked back for my buddy. I shouted the WTW war cry “oggy, oggy, oggy” listening for a response, sadly none. At 95km I reluctantly took the decision to press on to the finish. I knew if I stopped my legs would seize and I would never make it.

As I came down Brighton Racecourse I had a mixture of “yes…I’ve done it”, every step for my Mother, as I told her it would be. I glanced back for my Walking buddy, no sign. Then all I could hear was “oggy, oggy, oggy” to which I responded “oy, oy, oy”. Then the moment came, the famous Tunnel of Love. Having being part of a few for the MoonWalk, to actually walk through it for myself and film the moment was very special. Kate and the cheerleaders, Volunteers! THANK YOU! Up to the line for my medal, a glass of bubbly and one final shot of me.

Then I waited and an hour later my amazing Walking buddy came up the course, we formed the Tunnel of Love. As we had vowed many kilometres ago, I stepped out on to the course with her. Walking and applauding her across the line to collect her medal. I thank her for making the experience what it was.

There are a few bad selfies that shall forever remain between me and the camera. There are still more memories that come to mind as I read this back.

So many in fact that I’ve already signed up for 2016. Oh and for the record after almost 26 hours zero blisters!!! Finally I can call myself a Walk the Walk Walker!

Anne

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